Major Regrets: What to Do When You Have Second Thoughts About Your Degree

Brittni Ping, an international studies and French language major, soon found out after graduating college that just because a college offers a particular degree, doesn’t mean there’s an application for it in the real world.

She’s not alone. There is a large group of adults out there, perfectly capable adults who have college degrees and career aspirations, who regret their college major. Data from a May 2012 report by the Heldrich Center for Workforce Development found that of graduates who would’ve done something differently in college, 37% would’ve been more careful about selecting a major or chosen a different major. And with some saying the college degree is becoming the new high school diploma, who has time, and who can afford, to have regrets about their degree choice?

 

Value of the Internship

Ping began an internship in Tel Aviv after finishing college and found that it was a great way for her to get her feet wet in her field.

"The internship was actually a part of the Glazer Institute, which I heard of through my school. It was my first job within the realm of the arts, which I am very passionate about," she said. "The internship gave me a good idea of what goes on behind the scenes and from a business prospective, and since my major was international studies, I really benefitted from learning how to mesh into a new work culture."

Ping said unhappy or disenchanted graduates should seek out internships, especially abroad. Like Ping, students may learn of these opportunities through their respective schools. After interning, Ping taught English abroad in France for a year, in order to bolster her French degree.

"Even though the work may be short-term, you’ll never be bored. You learn a lot of things abroad at a much quicker pace, simply because the environment is so different from what you’re used to," she said. "I believe experiences like this have the ability to set you apart also from job applicants who have never left their own state, for example."

Abby Kohut, career expert and blogger for AbsolutelyAbby, said her internships were extremely beneficial.

"They helped me determine the kind of work environment I preferred, the kinds of job responsibilities I enjoyed, and the type of manager I worked with best. When you regret your major, it’s important to take the time that you need to find a job that you won’t regret, and internships offer a perfect opportunity to do just that," Kohut said. "Plus, an internship gives both parties a ‘try and buy’ so that each can decide whether the match is appropriate."

Kohut suggested graduates looking for internships check out sites such as InternsOver40 and Intern Match.

"You can also find internships on large job boards such as Monster and Careerbuilder. The best way to find a job shadowing opportunity is to use LinkedIn to find individuals in the profession you are interested in and ask them for a shadowing opportunity. Typically, college career centers can point you towards these kinds of opportunities as well," she said.

 

Work Through It, Literally

Sometimes when graduates are stuck with a degree they deem as worthless, the only thing to do is get to work.

"In this current job market, you need every advantage you can get on your resume and ‘psychology undergrad’ does not open many doors," said Anna Gamel, who majored in psychology and decided to forego grad school and get a job to pay back some of her undergraduate debt. "It’ll take me many years of good work experience to make up for that degree."

She began by taking a job completely unrelated to her field.

"I took a random job assisting a contracted public relations team at a tech company. The initial pay was $13/hour and was found by a friend’s cousin who worked for a recruiting company," Gamel said. "Within the first three months, they fired the contracted team, asked me to take over all PR for the company, and brought me on as a salaried employee with a substantial raise."

Gamel said she was able to teach herself PR through trial and error and with the help of Google.

"I was able to train myself to be effective in PR because I pushed myself past any comfort levels I ever had. I worked long hours and would bring my laptop home to read PR blogs," she said. "I literally had to Google what a press release was before writing my first one. I had to build lists of influential media people and executives by researching them from the ground-up. I pored over top technology lists and learned what Google Alerts were so I could keep myself up to date on emerging competition."

Loren Guerriero said his liberal arts degree in general psychology didn’t leave him with much but temporary work and volunteering opportunities.

His first job out of school was wilderness therapy, or leading a group of troubled teenagers through hikes in the woods — he stopped because it got cold — and after that began counseling homeless youth in downtown Portland. Guerriero said he realized the life of a social worker was "chronically underpaid, underappreciated, and morally exhausting."

So he packed up his belongings and bought a one-way ticket to Mexico.

"I had run out of ideas and options in the United States, so I decided to do something completely different, and I was interested in Mexico because of its rapid and unequal economic development," Guerriero said. "Mexico is so close by, and so different, yet intimately connected to us. But to be perfectly honest, it was a wild card without a clear outcome."

Guerriero began volunteering with local Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) in Mexico until he finally got his big break: an environmental justice NGO needed someone to translate its website from Spanish into English.

"Although I felt like I was adept at using computers, it was a stretch to work on a website. In addition, I was only an intermediate Spanish speaker," he said. "Regardless, I decided to take the job, even though I wasn’t sure how I would succeed. The steep learning curve — HTML and Spanish — forced me into many hours of trial and error, scouring the internet for tutorials and community discussions. I was surprised to find that I could pull it off with patience and self-paced study."

Because of the spontaneous trip to Mexico, Guerriero was able to make the most out of his degree.

"Ever since then, HTML has been a critical skill that has helped me get every job, each one forcing me to up my web ante. Without realizing it, the impulsive trip to Mexico sparked a new skill set."

 

Network Your Way to a Career

Possibly one of the best weapons a disgruntled graduate can use when networking are the various forms of social media.

"Networking is helpful for anyone entering a new field," Kohut said. "Use LinkedIn to locate individuals who are in the profession or industry that you are interested in, then ask for an informational interview where you can ask questions about why they entered the field, what they like or dislike, and what education is needed."

Gamel said all she had to go on when she took over her company’s PR efforts was a vague plan on a PowerPoint file. Her success relied on her ability to self-teach and network and she admittedly has networked herself into each position she’s had since college.

"I befriended some of the feistiest tech bloggers in the tech sphere and after two years was friendly enough to visit them in their homes," she said. I landed my bosses presentation slots at Proctor and Gamble, Harvard, MIT and Stanford University. We did conferences and expos in various states. I put on a press release party at the Ritz in Tokyo, Japan."

Gamel began her job not knowing what Twitter was and a year later was on a list in Portland as one of the top people to ‘follow.’

"I moved to a new city and had my sights set on a certain agency. I applied twice without luck, so I started networking via Twitter and found out the CEO would be attending a certain Tweet-Up," she said. "I went to the Tweet-Up and met as many people as I could until one person finally offered to introduce me to her. We chatted and I told her I would love to grab coffee sometime. Soon after, I was employed."

The key to networking, Gamel said, is stepping outside of one’s comfort zone.

"I actually hate networking and going to a networking event alone is like pure torture to me. But, you have to do it," she said. "If you have a hobby that makes you employable, for example you’re good at writing, volunteer at a writing center and meet people who could help you find a job. Think of a field where you believe you could make your skills work for you — find people in that field and ask them out to coffee."

 

The MOOC Advantage

Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) became extremely popular in 2012, as many saw them as a game changer in education technology.

 

With the opportunity to take classes for free, some of them for credit, graduates dissatisfied with their degrees can use MOOCs to enhance their resumes and possibly land them their dream job.

"Additional education whether free or credit worthy is valuable, especially in this job market," Kohut said. "If what you learned during the MOOC is relevant to your career goal, you can list it on your resume in the education section. You can also mention the class in your cover letter and in your interview, especially if the class helped you with your career choice."

Gamel said she considered going back to school for more education, but feels the additional debt would be hard to deal with.

"Before enrolling in MOOCs, I would try to talk to people in the industry I wanted to get into and research what MOOCs mean to my prospective employer," she said. "If I was already employed and thought it would help me move up, I would bring it up with my employer. I would try and get various employers or HR departments to chat with me about their thoughts on them first. I’ve been surprised at how receptive employers are about chatting with you regarding qualifications and what they look for in candidates."

 

The Importance of Being Realistic

Ping said students can no longer rely on good grades to come out with a well-paid, secure career.

"The business world just isn’t running like that anymore. Students do need to get As in school and have suitable experience through internships, but after that it’s about creativity and demonstrating how you stand out," she said.

Guerriero has similar opinions.

"By telling students that they can do anything, and trumpeting the inherent value of higher education, we sometimes miss the opportunity to teach the necessity of being technical and entrepreneurial in a the modern job market," he said. "The job hunt can be frustrating because a student is used to the pattern of applying for a program, completing the requirements, and receiving a certification. This thinking means that some individuals seek credentials perpetually, even without checking to see if that’s completely necessary."

Guerriero suggested recent graduates consider these questions before rushing to enroll in a program to acquire additional certification: What is the job I really want and what is required from this employer? Is it another degree or something else?

"This might be more education, or it might be volunteer work, an apprenticeship, or portfolio development," he said. "And don’t only respond to postings. Many opportunities are filled before they even make it to the public listings."

Kohut said many individuals make poor choices when it comes to their major because they are unaware of how their interests match potential careers.

It’s normal for students to have concerns about their job prospects after graduation, especially in this job market and especially if the choice of major doesn’t seem too promising. But, there are ways for graduates to combat these concerns, and ultimately find their way to successful and fulfilling careers.

The English Major as a Strategic Career Move

There comes a time in every young English major’s life when someone, somewhere, at some time cracks, “You want fries with that?” Classist implications of the “joke” aside, it also happens to be a fallacy. Graduates with a bachelor’s in English have plenty more skills and available opportunities than the stereotypes imply. Even in a society where the science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields receive all the funding, attention, and federal support, the bibliophiles out there still offer plenty of valuable perks to their employers.

Despite this STEM-focused environment, 28% percent of humanities liberal arts bachelor’s degrees conferred are in English language and literature. In 2009, this meant a total of about 925,073 graduates. Along with their fellow humanities and liberal arts majors, 80% enjoy full-time jobs. The unemployed only make up 7% of the English major demographics, which remains in congruence with the national average across disciplines. Forty-one percent move up to graduate programs, which increased their salaries by 48% over their counterparts with bachelor’s degrees. Seeing as how the average annual salary for English majors with full-time employment is $48,000, that uptick isn’t too shabby at all. Even without a master’s or a Ph.D., the literary-minded pull in far more money than society tends to say they do.

More than Just Teaching and Writing

Education and writing careers may seem like the obvious paths for English majors — but that shouldn’t leave the ones gunning for something else entirely feeling locked out.

“Our majors really can do most anything that they are interested in,” Katherine Teasdale, University of Michigan Department of English Language and Literature Undergraduate Administrator, says. As one of the top programs in the subject, its alumni move on to “entry level jobs at magazines, television, radio, social media, research institutions, academia, sales and promotions, marketing. It’s also a great preparation for professional careers [law, medicine].” From there, to some even more impressive opportunities, as their stellar post-graduation profiles reveal.

“According to [our] March 2012 survey of 2,200 employers, ‘oral & written communications’ was the second most popular search term employers used when reviewing resumes for positions designed for recent college grads; 45% of employers search for this term, which gives English majors an advantage,” notes Jennifer Grasz, Vice President of Corporate Communications at CareerBuilder.com. And it is this knack for conveying ideas that lead employers from a staggering amount of industries to find them such appealing recruits.

The Social Media Draw

Literary types might have their pick of far more careers than most people tend to assume, but their knack for clearly conveying ideas and thinking creatively make social media a significantly possible fit.

“English majors are definitely appealing when it comes to hiring for a social media position because it’s so important for a social marketer to tell a story really well,” explains Kristina Allen, a social media specialist at Green Dot Advertising. “That being said, in all aspects of online marketing — including social marketing — it’s really important to be data-driven and analytical. You have to understand how to tell a story that not only resonates with the audience but that also drives leads, sales, and increased branding.”

But she does issue a fair warning for those considering the field without any training beyond what they pick up in the classroom. “It’s unlikely that I would hire an English major for a social media management position if he or she didn’t have a background in data-driven marketing. However, I would encourage English majors interested in moving into the social media field to gain internship, volunteer, or entry-level experience in the field.”

Michelle Beckham-Corbin, the President & Chief Digital Marketing Strategist of C3: Creating Connections Consulting and a veteran of sales and marketing at Procter & Gamble, also understands the appeal.

“The explosion in digital communication today requires great content in the form of blog posts, Facebook Page Updates, Tweets or any other social media platform written expression. Marketers develop great content and engagement strategies, but the written word has to be effective at sparking that connection,” she says. “This is the sweet spot for English majors who have excellent command of language, nuance, tone and audience.”

Like Allen, she believes that many “do not have enough of a business background” to fully thrive as social media specialists. However, Beckham-Corbin adds, “While some companies might be in search of strict copywriters, I think the vast majority would find that some social media marketing experience and a healthy amount of social media networking savvy combined with a degree in English would be the preferred candidate profile.”

What Schools Do … And Should Do

What makes University of Michigan such a well-respected institution for English majors is the intense level of care it puts into ensuring post-graduation employment. “We promote many fields beyond the traditional ones (teaching, editing, publishing),” Teasdale says. At the school’s career center, they explicitly pitch many different expected and unexpected employment options. Counselors work directly with students to “help to identify the skills that our liberal arts students develop and how important they are, and how they translate into our current job market.” This increases their opportunities to better hone any additional skills prior to entering the work force, which, in turn, increases their employment opportunities.

Along with this personalized assistance meant to guide English majors towards success in myriad fields, Michigan’s “Undergraduate English Association also offers a Career Panel every year where they have people from many career fields, including, medicine, business, public relations, politics, and social media.” Promoting the degree’s flexibility remains a core priority when it comes to showcasing all the available options, alongside the usual aims.

“To think critically about a text teaches skills of close reading and analysis, which translates to the real world by having the ability to read and translate meaning to the ‘real world,’” Teasdale adds. Written and verbal discussions central to an English degree directly feed into the communication skills so demanded by employers.

University of California at Berkeley, another top-ranked English program, also stands out as one with phenomenal outreach. Like Michigan, alumni succeed in multiple industries because the support structure exposes them to multiple industries. Its recently-launched Chernin Mentorship Program brings together faculty, undergraduates, and graduates in a regular forum. Discussions range from in-depth literary critiques to writer’s forums to exchanges over harnessing an English degree in different fields; considering Berkeley’s status, the resources available through Chernin are exceptionally intelligent and leave students well-prepared for whatever career challenges they face.

Run by the students themselves, the English Undergraduate Association functions as another outlet supporting varied career choices. Its programming options include a literary magazine (The Folio), staged performances, and celebrations of alumni in the arts and sciences alike. Participants plan events, talk books, and exchange resources to assist one another’s professional and personal interests before and after graduation.

Becoming Well-Rounded Outside the Classroom

When colleges and universities can’t nurture more specific career skills, it’s up to the student to take charge and create their own opportunities. This might mean filling up their elective slots with business courses or internships.

“I would suggest taking a course or two in general marketing or advertising and digital marketing to give them a broader range of knowledge and a competitive edge when searching for a business writing position,” advises Beckham-Corbin.

Allen praises internships especially, “I would encourage English majors interested in moving into the social media field to gain internship, volunteer or entry-level experience in the field.” Students should not shy away from applying to these positions because they think their literary leanings will prove detrimental.

“Our applications at Green Dot Advertising are still mostly from people with degrees in marketing, business, public relations, and communication,” she adds. “I would like to see more English majors applying for our internship positions because I feel if an English major can learn to perform and love data analysis they would be a great fit for social marketing roles.”

When searching for open intern slots, take risks and see which businesses embrace the communications and English majors. It may very well prove exactly what the student needs to wind up in their chosen industry.

It takes some savvy, some creativity, and some luck, but they can certainly build themselves up outside the aforementioned channels. “In terms of real world skills, look for those opportunities that will help you showcase your writing expertise,” Grasz advises. “Outside of formal internships, contribute to blogs or write one yourself. Offer to write an internal newsletter for a company or provide communications support through volunteering. Seeing your writing abilities outside of the classroom is a big selling point to employers.”

These strategies not only cultivate the business and marketing acumen they need in the corporate world, but illustrate the very innovative initiatives potential employers love to see.

Despite the jokes, the snark, and the misunderstandings surrounding English degrees, graduates in the field open up plenty of viable career opportunities. Social media and other marketing-oriented departments find their communication skills superb. Pursuing paths beyond the standard writing and teaching require a little extra oomph, but hiring bodies pay much closer attention to the students who display it. Whether this additional training comes courtesy of the schools themselves, some bootstrap-pulling, or a blend of the two depends on the situation. But for English majors yearning for a shot at the business world, their goals are by no means as invalid as those nasty little rumors imply.

The $10,000 Degree Plan, from Start to Finish

The total cost (tuition and fees) for an in-state bachelor’s degree for the 2011-2012 school year stood at around $17,131, according to The College Board’s Trends in College Pricing 2011. Out-of-state students experience even more of a penalty, shelling out a shocking $29,657 for their diplomas. Following graduation, the newly minted baccalaureates owe an average of $24,651 in student loan debts, which increase by an average of 5.6% annually. When blended with a fluctuating unemployment rate, it’s not hard to understand why protests break out on college campuses across the nation, begging for a viable solution to their economic struggles.

Enter the $10,000 degree plan. Originally proposed by Texas Governor Rick Perry in 2011, the strategy involves exactly what the label says. Participating students pay no more than $10,000 for their entire bachelor’s degree, including tuition, fees, and books. Some schools have already accepted his challenge, including select satellite campuses of University of Texas (Permian Basin), Texas A&M University (San Antonio), and University of Houston (Victoria). As of mid-January 2013, 23 state colleges from Florida answered a clarion call from Governor Rick Scott, to follow suit. Chancellor at the Division of Florida Colleges Randy Hanna sums up the appeal perfectly — "Affordability is accessibility."

$10k Innovators

According to Hanna, Florida’s model still requires some cooperation with the state legislature to fully establish the broad framework. Individual colleges, including Miami Dade College and Palm Beach State College, will be responsible for filling in the details. In a state with roughly 9,000 college students, he notes that allowing participating schools to decide which bachelor’s degrees to offer, how to secure funding, and other factors should be their responsibility; working closely with the surrounding communities means more accurately tailoring their programs to students’ unique needs, rather than trying to force anyone into a narrow confine. From partnering with local businesses for internships or hosting MOOCs, the schools’ interpretation of the $10,000 degree program remains open. Hanna points out that there is no "typical college student" in Florida, though the median age is 26, as an extremely diverse range of income levels, racial and national backgrounds, abilities, and other demographics are well-represented. Just about the only commonality that will likely exist from school to school involves targeting enrollees hoping to enter the workforce with little to no debt weighing them down.

Students have already entered some of the $10,000 degree plans in Texas, including University of Houston-Victoria, which became the very first college in the state to offer a three-year baccalaureate program (known as DN3). Although stressing affordability and opening up more options for the cash-strapped, UHV provides further grants and scholarships for qualifying students following the completion of years one and two. Texas’ state government does not offer participating colleges any semblance of an incentive for establishing $10,000 baccalaureates, however. Launched in 2010, the majors covered at UHV so far include history, English, Spanish, criminal justice, communications, and psychology. Jeffrey Di Leo, Dean of the School of Arts and Sciences at UHV, says this option "is the same 120-hour degree as the full-priced one" and points out how "the only difference is that students will complete it in three years — and at a lower cost." The plan includes electives, so their acceleration fully acknowledges the importance of a well-rounded educational experience.

Students Who Benefit

Using UHV’s programs as an example, students interested in pursuing the communications degree might be prime candidates for the $10,000 degree program, based on the post-graduation career flexibility, and fewer demands for post-graduate degrees in the marketplace. They might consider advertising, where the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects a growth of 13% for sales agents and 13.3% for managers between 2010 and 2020; for public relations, the BLS forecasts a 22.5% increase for specialists and 16.4% for managers. This may mean more chances for entering the workforce without major student loan debt.

Criminal justice may provide some growing future opportunities, especially for students looking to make the jump to law school. Although requiring additional schooling, lawyers are expected to see an increase in employment of 5.9% before 2020. Saving tuition on undergrad may be a savvy choice, but if a JD seems like too much money or the statistic appears less-than-appealing, the BLS projects a 64% growth rate for paralegal and legal positions.

For the more STEM-oriented, the Texas Science Scholar upcoming $10,000 degree programs could model the University of Texas-Permian Basin, which offers high school students to major in chemistry, computer science, math, information systems, and geology, though the track takes a full four years, rather than three. Applicants enjoy access to Federal Aid information in case they need a little extra help with paying.

Since the diplomas do not differ from their pricier counterparts, and the chances of landing a job or advancing to graduate school remain largely the same, is $10,000 the tuition of the future? Di Leo states simply that the only thing "lost" in the transition to more fiscally friendly options is, "the potential for a higher student debt." To UHV, it all breaks down into the old adage about getting out of something what you’ve put into it. Students who spring for a three-year plan enter the workforce faster, though their employment prospects hinge just as much on their majors and the overall economic climate.

The ultimate sustainability of the $10,000 baccalaureate — discounted in price, but not quality — relies on whether or not students will continue to demand such an option. It may find itself rooted in history as an option for meager economic times, or it may enjoy status as a permanent fixture in higher education. But states and schools alike look upon the challenge with hope; which seems infectious, as the California legislature currently contemplates a bill establishing their own $10,000 degree plan. Even when the job market starts hiring again, enrollees will more than likely still appreciate saving money and time in the long run.

The Appeal of Black Colleges Online

 

For more than a century, students have attended historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) for numerous reasons. Some prefer the smaller campuses and closer interaction with faculty, others the on-campus social experience, while some just want the opportunity to attend a school with people similar to themselves.

HBCUs offer numerous options for those who desire to attend: public and private institutions, two-year and four-year institutions. In recent years, many HBCUs have begun to offer more online courses and degrees, keeping up with the changing characteristics of college students — many who are older, working adults and prefer the flexibility of earning their degree online.

For Justin Green, it was about tradition.

"I chose an HBCU because of the legacy and heritage behind each university," said Green, who earned his bachelor’s degree in accounting from Florida A&M University. "I also chose FAMU because my mother, sisters, and a host of cousins all attended FAMU. Its reputation made me want to be a part of the FAMU family."

After his undergraduate studies, Green chose to pursue his MBA at FAMU, through the school’s online MBA program. He said the convenience of attending classes and obtaining a degree without having to physically sit in a classroom while working more than 40 hours a week made the program manageable.

"Many students would like to be a part of the rich history that is associated with an HBCU, but are not in close proximity to attend on-campus classes," he said. "There are also individuals like myself who attended an HBCU but moved away to pursue careers but would have wanted to obtain a master’s degree from the same university that they obtained their bachelor’s degree."

LaTanya White completed her MBA from FAMU in 2007. At that time, the school had not begun offering its MBA online.

"I think in the case of online students, the appeal for them would boil down to them being able to tap into a strong alumni base to build relationships and identify networking opportunities that might come from that," she said. "FAMU has a very strong and very loyal alumni base, such that online students should be able to connect with an alumni group in almost any part of the country. Also, most online programs do call for an on-campus visit at some point during their virtual matriculation and that visit would hopefully incorporate some of the attractions of the on-campus experience creating that same sense of pride and loyalty for that school."

FAMU, which markets itself as being more than just a school, but actually a family, offers two other master’s degree programs online.

"I think having that personal interaction is just as much a part of the collegiate experience as anything else," said Dr. Shawnta Friday-Stroud, Dean of the School of Business and Industry at FAMU. "I tell students the entire college experience is a combination of both academic and social experiences."

FAMU’s online MBA, Friday-Stroud said, was designed to include parts of that social experience.

"The program requires that students complete an intense four-day on-campus residency at the beginning of the semester. We have them busy doing stuff until eight or nine every night they are there. They also get to meet the faculty members they will be working with over the course of the program," Friday-Stroud said. "The online MBA includes synchronous as well asynchronous programs, and a week-long international residency at the end of the program."

Friday-Stroud said this semester’s graduates will be attending Sao Paulo, Brazil where they will visit an HBCU in Brazil and various corporations.

"We’ve tried to capture much of the reasons that HBCUs are attractive in the online program. We didn’t want to give up who we were in the program," she said.

Friday-Stroud said the school markets its online programs at conferences, on the radio, through various online platforms, and even during sporting events.

"During games, announcers will mention FAMU’s online programs," she said. "At this point we?re going after people who already have an affinity with the university."

Fayetteville State University, another HBCU growing its online education offerings, became involved with distance education in 1999, in which there were eight faculty members teaching online courses. In spring 2012, the number of faculty jumped to 192.

"Our online degree completion students are typically nontraditional students who need flexible options to further their education," said Bonnie Grohe, FSU’s director of online education. "FSU strives to deliver the same quality resources and services on-campus students receive to students at a distance from our brick and mortar campus."

Here is a list of all the accredited HBCUs that offer online degree programs:

  • Albany State University

    This public university based in Georgia offers online students bachelor’s degrees in fire service administration and business information systems and master’s degrees in criminal justice and early childhood education. The school is accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.

  • Bethune-Cookman University

    Students can pursue their Master of Science in Transformative Leadership online from this private university based in Daytona Beach, Fla. Bethune-Cookman is accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.

  • Fayetteville State University

    FSU’s online undergraduate degrees are offered as part of a degree completion program. The university currently offers six undergraduate and two master’s programs online, and plans to add programs in nursing and education soon. FSU is accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.

  • Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University

    Based in Tallahassee, FAMU is ranked 10th overall among the best HBCUs in 2012’s U.S. News and World Report and offers students three master’s degree programs online. The university is accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.

  • Fort Valley State University

    FVSU is affiliated with the University System of Georgia and offers online bachelor’s degrees in criminal justice, political science, psychology, and technical and professional writing and an online master’s degree in rehabilitation counseling and case management. FVSU is accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.

  • Hampton University

    This private institution not only has notable alumni such as Booker T. Washington and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s mother Alberta Williams King, but also ranks fourth among the best HBCUs in 2012’s U.S. News and World Report. Hampton offers 12 undergraduate, four graduate and three certificate programs online and is accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.

  • Howard University

    Based in Washington, D.C., this private university is ranked second among best HBCUs in 2012’s U.S. News and World Report. Howard offers online degrees in pharmacy, clinical laboratory science, nursing, business, law, and education. Howard University is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

  • Jackson State University

    Mississippi-based Jackson State offers an online bachelor’s in child care and family education as part of its degree completion program as well as an online MBA. Jackson State is accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.

  • Kentucky State University

    This public university currently offers online students a bachelor’s in psychology and a master’s in special education and will soon add online bachelor’s degrees in criminal justice, information technology, and public administration. Kentucky State is accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.

  • Langston University

    The only HBCU in Oklahoma, Langston University provides its students with an online MBA. Langston University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools.

  • Morgan State University

    Morgan State University, based in Baltimore, Md., offers an online doctoral degree in community college leadership. The university is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

  • Norfolk State University

    Students attending this public university in Virginia can earn a bachelor’s degree in interdisciplinary studies entirely online. Norfolk State University is accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.

  • North Carolina A&T State University

    Based in Greensboro, North Carolina A&T State University graduates the largest number of black engineers at the undergraduate, master’s and doctoral levels. Online students can choose from five undergraduate and four graduate degrees as well as one certificate program. North Carolina AT&T is accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.

  • North Carolina Central University

    A part of the University of North Carolina System since 1972, North Carolina Central University offers online bachelor’s, master’s, and certification programs — some of the programs are degree completion and some are in hybrid format. The university is accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.

  • Prairie View A&M University

    Prairie View, the second-oldest public institution of higher education in Texas, offers students an online MBA. The university is accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.

  • Southern University A&M College

    Southern University is based in Baton Rouge, La. and offers a RN to BSN program fully online. The school is accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.

  • St. Philip’s College

    St. Philip’s College, located in San Antonio, Texas, is the only two-year HBCU offering degrees online. Students can earn associate’s degrees or certificates online in various fields. St. Philip’s is accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.

  • Tennessee State University

    Located in Nashville, this school offers online degrees at the undergraduate and graduate level. The bachelor’s degree in interdisciplinary studies, and the information technology and organizational leadership concentrations with the bachelor’s degree in professional studies are degree completion programs. Tennessee State University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.

  • Texas Southern University

    This Houston-based university offers an online eMBA, eMPA, master’s in education, and three certificate programs. Texas Southern University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.

  • Tougaloo College

    Tougaloo College is a private college based in Mississippi offering an online master’s degree in economics with an emphasis in business. Tougaloo is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.

  • Virginia University of Lynchburg

    This private institution offers online degrees in the undergraduate and master’s levels in liberal arts and sciences, religious studies, business administration, organizational management, sociology, and divinity. VUL is accredited by the Transnational Association of Christian Colleges and Schools, Accreditation Commission.

  • Winston-Salem State University

    Winston-Salem’s online students can pursue certificates, bachelor’s degrees — some are through degree completion — as well as master’s degrees in fields such as education and nursing. The university is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.

8 Fascinating Ways STEM Students are Learning Online


Could the reason for American students lagging behind the world in science, technology, engineering, and math be that, forgive us, the courses are boring? Sure, a small percentage of kids grow up knowing without a doubt they are going to be biologists. Perhaps we need some new ways of delivering science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education that fire students up and teach them in a way they’ve never experienced before. Surely potential methods lie within the boundless reach of the Internet, and sure enough, some schools are already harnessing its power and successfully breaking the STEM mold.

  1. Northwestern’s iLabs Network:

    Ever heard someone say they’d like to reach through the phone? Thanks to the Office of STEM Education Partnerships at Northwestern University, students around the world can reach through the Web to do their own science experiments, courtesy of the iLabs Network. It offers the information on and simulations of various equipment and processes that can be found on similar sites, but instead of stopping there, the iLabs Network takes it one step further. Students fill out queries on their specific experiment, with whatever measurements and values they choose, upload, then switch over to a webcam view of a real piece of equipment performing their experiment. Once it’s done, their results come back and can then be exported or converted to a PDF.

  2. Mobile Studio Project at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute:

    As he wrote in a recent piece for The Chronicle of Higher Education, Ken Connor doesn’t do lectures anymore. Instead, the electrical engineering prof and his colleagues at RPI are using the techniques of blended learning and flipped classrooms to transform engineering courses from boring to hands-on. Using a circuit board called the Mobile Studio IOBoard that plugs into a PC, Connor creates an activity, films himself discussing it, then uploads it to the Web. His students are then required to watch the video and hopefully tinker with the process themselves so that by the time they meet, they’re ready to discuss and put the principles into practice.

  3. OSU’s Growing Farms:

    Who said all STEM students have to be degree-seekers? Oregon State’s Division of Outreach and Engagement offers an intriguing example of a new way to teach STEM: with hybrid courses. "Growing Farms" guides "those who are ready to farm or ranch" through six ungraded online modules to help them plan their own farms. But it also brings online learners on-site to both receive instruction on best practices for agriculture and meet other farmers and make connections with them in a way an online forum probably could not mimic.

  4. Hyflex at Ohio State:

    A combination of hybrid and flex, hyflex courses are a burgeoning development that give students the option of learning online or in a classroom, whichever suits them better. Ohio State associate prof Jackie Miller helped pioneer the format in her statistics class, which incorporated such cool tech innovations as web polling and a backchannel, the latter of which was the process by which students could text in questions while a lecture was underway and get an answer from the prof during the lecture.

  5. Berkeley’s SETI@home:

    Since 1999, self-directed learners interested in the science of space have been volunteering their Internet-connected home computers and picking up knowledge of radio, astronomy, and astrobiology in exchange. Short for Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence, this massive science experiment brings together thousands of individual computers to make the world’s largest supercomputer that scans the galaxy for E.T. signals. The website keeps its millions of participants informed on science and technical news, and of course, the status of intelligent life on other planets (nothing yet). The Planetary Society calls the program the most successful public participation project in history.

  6. "The Radix Endeavor" by MIT:

    The people in the STEP (Scheller Teacher Education Program) at MIT are putting their brainpower into creating projects that make STEM stimulating and get kids interested in the field. One of these creations is "The Radix Endeavor," now over a year into development and going live this year. Using the format of a MMO (massive multiplayer online), the game lets players explore the plants and animals of a mysterious island to help the locals solve environmental and social problems. That’s the science part, but the game also finds ways to incorporate algebra, geometry, probability, and statistics.

  7. Carnegie Mellon’s Alice:

    Although Stanford and Washington University in St. Louis are also represented, this "3D programming environment" is primarily a CMU innovation for the "T" part of STEM. The next generation of computer programmers is learning on Alice, software that is made freely available online. The program allows students to drag and drop code into appropriate places in a program (preventing them from making mistakes), and gives them immediate feedback on how they did. The folks behind it have also made tutorials and textbooks that go along with the freeware available online to teachers at partner institutions.

  8. Rice University’s STEMscopes:

    It took less than two years for this program launched by the Rice Center for Digital Learning and Scholarship to hit 1 million users. Created by teachers for teachers, the program is an all-encompassing set of online curricula, educational apps, and teacher assessment tools for the fields of STEM. Both teachers and parents can access the material, effectively creating flipped classrooms as parents are given the means to help students study outside class and teachers have more time to focus on helping students practice what they’ve learned.

Why Online Learning Is Vital to Improving Education

Embed the image above on your site

The Great New Gap Year

A decade ago, the idea of a gap year seemed like an option only suited students who wanted to shirk responsibility for as long as possible. But the year off between high school and college that’s so popular in the U.K. and Australia has been gaining traction in the U.S. for a few years now. Though no formal statistics are taken on gap years in the U.S. (yet), the Higher Education Research Institute estimates that in 2011, 1.2% of first-time college freshmen in the U.S. deferred their education to take a gap year — and that’s only counting the ones who applied and were accepted into college before taking a year off. The gap year of today, though, is taking a different shape than what the phrase typically brings to mind.

The traditional gap year lasted, well, a year and was normally taken after graduating high school but before beginning college. Many students would take the opportunity to gain work experience or to backpack through Europe on $5 a day. Today’s growing gap year craze is often far from the traditional tales of roughing it alone or flying by the seat of your pants. A gap year can last anywhere from a few months to two years and is sometimes taken during college or after graduation, before beginning a job. Productive gap years require careful planning, according to experts, and don’t necessarily come cheap.

Julia Levine Rogers knows the ins and outs of gap years better than most. After graduating from Hamilton College in 2006, Rogers spent nine months in Tanzania educating children and the community on HIV/AIDS prevention and women’s reproductive health. For her, long-term volunteering was the perfect way to challenge herself after a comfortable college career and before heading out into the business world. Her experience was so transformative, though, she started a gap year advising company in 2008, EnRoute Consulting in Vermont. Not only are more students jumping on board as they avoid education burnout and seek global experiences, but organizations are seeing the potential, as well.

The Business of the Gap Year

Gap years have created their own industry as they’ve grown in popularity, with companies springing up to provide volunteer experiences abroad, organize travel between points of interest, and advise on everything from gap year job placement to insurance to safety precautions. Businesses like GapYear.com have seen their American web traffic grow from almost none to about 10% of their total web traffic.

"There has been a strong teen travel industry for a while — summer programs — and those companies are quickly expanding into the gap year market. U.K.-based gap programs are starting to look to the States for participants," Rogers says. "I’ve been told America is seen as the ‘sleeping gap year giant’ by Europe."

More than 30 gap year fairs take place across the U.S. every year. Even some top schools are getting in on the gap year game; Princeton’s Bridge Year Program lets select students put off starting their freshman year to do school-sponsored service for nine months at an international location. The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill provides a Global Gap Year Fellowship for seven incoming freshmen to take a gap year.

Gap years don’t necessarily mean students have to go overseas. Many find projects and work experience in the U.S. are just as beneficial and more affordable than trips abroad. Americorps is a popular federally funded option; it provides several types of volunteer opportunities, including tutoring, construction, and helping the environment, to adults of all ages. Outward Bound runs courses in wilderness skills in states across the country. Dynamy’s Internship Year provides the opportunity for community service and internships for 40 students. Those students who choose to go abroad also have a wide variety of options on almost every continent. Bel Camino takes students to Italy, ISA lets students go to South America, China, or Europe, and GVI has programs in Africa, Asia, Central America, and beyond — and those are just three of the dozens of program options. Many religious gap year programs have popped up,as well, allowing young people to get a glimpse of long-term missions work. Some of these include BMS World Mission, Christian Camp Leaders, and Impact 360. These companies may take away some of the guesswork and total independence that used to be associated with a year off from school, but they help make the planning easier, an important part of a worthwhile gap year.

"Being deliberate and thoughtful is essential to a successful gap year. I always recommend that gap year students set a few goals for their gap year and use that as a guide in the planning," Rogers says. "Researching programs and opportunities is also an important aspect of planning. Many gap years have been ruined by choosing bad organizations to travel with!"

Careful planning can also help students avoid a potential pitfall of gap years: harming the developing nations that many students set out to help. The thinktank Demos reported in 2011 that poorly planned volunteering stints in developing countries can start to act as a sort of "new colonialism." According to the report, one in five British people who took a gap year said they didn’t feel their presence had a positive impact on the native people, and these programs could start to appear like a new way for the West to assert their power if not carefully planned and executed.

Arranging plans through a program or consultant also helps parents sleep a little better at night, especially since many of their children are only 17 or 18 when going on these adventures.

"It can be hard for parents since instead of dropping them off at school — which is hard as it is — they are putting them on an airplane," Rogers explains.

The added security that comes with well-established programs and using consultants can add up quickly on a family’s finances, though, particularly for years abroad. The 10-month Global Citizen Year program, for example, comes with a price tag of $29,500. Projects Abroad’s Global Gap program, which lasts 27 weeks and takes participants to five countries on three continents, is $29,995. Thinking Beyond Borders’ two-semester program usually costs more than $34,000.

Footing the Bill

Rogers says her clients’ gap year adventures usually cost $15,000 to $20,000 on average, which parents often help pay for (though she points out that gap year students on a budget probably aren’t using an advisor or similar services; they may have a cheaper experience closer to the traditional gap year, outside the growing gap year industry). In the U.K., parents spend 995 million pounds, or more than $1.5 billion, each year on their children’s gap years.

The positive news for students is that many gap year programs provide the opportunity for financial aid. Out of all the participants of Global Citizen Year, 80% receive some sort of financial aid and more than a third have the whole cost covered. Thinking Beyond Borders also provides need-based financial aid, as well as suggestions for raising the money for tuition. Students should check with individual programs to see if aid is available.

So what do gap year students get with all that money? Once-in-a-lifetime experiences. Whether their motivation for going is to take a break from school, push themselves beyond their comfort zone, or figure out what they want to do with their lives, the people taking part in these programs are doing it big. Projects Abroad’s Global Gap involves service projects ranging from teaching to marine conservation to human rights in Ghana, South Africa, Peru, India, and Thailand, all taking place between September and April. Rogers said most of her clients choose to do a few different things, in different places during their year off — interning with Amnesty International in San Francisco before heading to work with a soccer foundation in Madrid, or starting in Italy and ending up in Ecuador, for example. The more variety, the better for these gappers.

"Last year I had a student who spent the fall on an expensive group-adventure travel program in South America, then went to Fiji for two weeks," Rogers says. "Then two weeks trekking and whitewater rafting in Bhutan with her father, then spent the spring backpacking Southeast Asia and New Zealand with her boyfriend, volunteering along the way."

The Most Famous Professors (Actually) Teaching Today


Most of us are familiar with the hotshot professors out there, the Maya Angelous and the Noam Chomskys. Trouble is, these glamorous academics are either too busy, too old, or both to bother setting foot into a classroom anymore for more than a brief special guest lecture. Still, a few lucky college students out there will get the chance this semester (and hopefully many more semesters after that) to actually be taught by these world-renowned people from the areas of politics, the arts, Wall Street, and more.

  1. Michael Porter:

    In a (somewhat fawning) article about how he is still going strong at 65, Forbes recently called Michael Porter "the most famous and influential business professor who has ever lived" and "the all-time greatest strategy guru." At Harvard, he holds the title of Bishop William Lawrence University Professor at HBS and he’s an award-winning contributor to the famous Harvard Business Review. This spring he’s slated to impart his vast knowledge to pupils in his class "The Microeconomics of Competitiveness: Firms, Clusters, and Economic Development."

  2. James Franco:

    This actor-slash-author-slash-artist-slash-college professor may be teaching today, but don’t count on him being there tomorrow. The Freaks and Geeks star first entered the teaching ranks in 2011 at NYU heading up a graduate film course. Apparently he got the bug, because in fall 2012 USC students got the exciting news that Franco was bringing his talents to SoCal. Together with his business partner, Franco will help eight young directors create short films "exploring the unknown, the unexplained and the unimaginable" in a course called "The Labyrinth."

  3. Cornel West:

    If there’s such a thing as a rock star professor, West is it. The guy has written 20 books, was in two Matrix movies and an episode of 30 Rock, does spots on Craig Ferguson, and has received over 20 honorary degrees. In the fall of 2011, West announced he was leaving Princeton for Union Theological Seminary to be a Professor of Philosophy and Christian Practice. This spring he’ll be molding young minds in two courses: "The Historical Philosophy of W.E.B. Du Bois" and "The Philosophical Theology of Abraham Joshua Heschel."

  4. Condoleezza Rice:

    As the Secretary of State, this Stanford prof was once fourth in line to be the leader of the free world had that pretzel proven fatal to President Bush. Other than making news for her presidential endorsement (Romney), Condi stays busy with her teaching schedule as the Denning Professor in Global Business and Economy in the Graduate School of Business. She’s listed a teaching six courses this spring, which sounds like a lot except they’re mainly directed reading courses for grad students. The best chance for students to hear from her this spring is by taking the one-week GSBGEN 588: "Crisis Management on the World Stage."

  5. Leonard Maltin:

    Every Thursday at 7 p.m. in the Eileen Norris Cinema Theatre building, over 350 seats will be full of kids crowding in to see films before they hit theaters and hear this famous film critic interview some of Hollywood’s biggest players. In previous semesters, students have gotten sneak previews of Lord of the Rings, Up in the Air, Tangled, and Bridesmaids and gotten just yards away from Nic Cage, Orlando Bloom, and Judd Apatow. Needless to say, "CTCS 466 Theatrical Film Symposium" is one of USC’s most popular courses.

  6. Jeremy Siegel:

    When CNN, NPR, or any other media outlet needs a scholarly source for a comment on the markets, time after time they turn to this professor of finance at Penn’s Wharton business school. When budding businesspeople need to be reminded whether it’s the bull or the bear that’s the good one, they turn to his Finance 101 class. This spring you’ll find Siegel at the front of the "Monetary Economics and the Global Economy" class on Mondays and Wednesdays from 10:30 to noon.

  7. Questlove:

    NYU may have lost James Franco, but this spring they’ll be treated to the presence of a certain drummer for The Roots. Questlove (sorry, Quest, the only punctuation we recognize in a name is an apostrophe) will be directing "’Classic Albums" at the Clive Davis Institute for Recorded Music in the School of the Arts. The students will be studying records like Prince’s "Dirty Mind" and Michael Jackson’s "Off the Wall" (what, no "Things Fall Apart"?) to investigate what gives an album a long shelf life, from lyrics to marketing.

  8. Temple Grandin:

    As far as we know, the "most well-known adult with autism in the world" will be back at her old stomping grounds this spring to teach "Livestock Behavior" at Colorado State University. She is in such demand as a speaker, though, it can be difficult to say where she’ll be on a given day, whether it’s chatting it up with the folks at NPR or inspiring audiences at TED conferences. But she’s been a fixture on the Fort Collins campus for over 20 years, and you can bet there will be some sad Rams when she turns in her spurs.

  9. Michael Sandel:

    Although relatively unknown professors are starting to gain celebrity for teaching online, this Harvard prof is one of the few who was already famous before porting his work to the Web. Sandel has been called a "rock-star moralist" and the "master of life’s big questions." He’s taught 15,000 students in-person at Harvard, and countless more have viewed his lectures online. This spring it doesn’t look like the class is in Sandel’s lineup; instead he’ll be teaming up with another professor to teach two sections of "Ethics, Biotechnology, and the Future of Human Nature."

  10. Jill Biden:

    Since the First Lady seems more concerned with obesity, the Vice President’s wife (the Second Lady?) has apparently picked up the banner of reading from Laura Bush, just on a smaller scale. Jill Biden joined the English department faculty of Northern Virginia Community College in the spring of 2009, having taught at Northern Virginia Community College for 15 years and in high school for 13 years before that. This term has her taking on "Critical Reading and Study Skills" and "College Composition I" (for which she will be well-compensated).

The Race to Graduate: Which Incentives Really Work?


Given how important money is to all but the most fiscally privileged of high school and college kids, nobody should be shocked to find out that financial rewards stand as some of the most common incentives when it comes to encouraging heightened graduation rates. Depending on the institution and level, this could mean anything from loan forgiveness to tuition discounts. Tests run by MDRC concluded that the most effective strategies for encouraging students to graduate early or on time all involve addressing their economic concerns. Most of these programs require recipients to maintain a minimum GPA, of course, and grades seem to increase alongside degree completion when money enters the mix. For low-income enrollees especially, these incentives prove particularly viable.

As with all things involving expenditures, providing monetary rewards and incentives, critiques both valid and invalid exist dissecting both overarching efficacy and best practices. One of the most curious, however, peers into issues of development. High school students qualified to graduate early raise questions about whether their emotional maturity complements their academic aptitude. As much as test scores might reflect a heightened chance at collegiate (or even post-collegiate) success, some (but by no means all) students simply aren’t cut out for enrolling until they grow up a little. No definitive test exists for whether they can handle the unique demands colleges require, however, and some express concerns that incentives might end up wasted in some of these instances. Other issues regarding rewards revolve around some packaged with built-in penalties. Students at California State University actively protest the system’s proposals involving paying the school if certain graduation goals go unmet. Ostensibly, levying fines like $91 for every class repeated and $182 for enrolling in more than 18 hours lowers the rate of dropped and overloaded classes. But for the ones paying up, these hefty fees mean additional expenditures in an already crowded budget. Many feel as if such penalties actively hinder the path toward graduating on time and/or with the desired GPA rather than accomplishing their projected goals.

Meanwhile, in the marketplace, employers enjoying comparatively more resources offer up tuition reimbursements in their benefits packages, though usually stipulating relevance to the position, completion, and/or some minimum degree of sticking around following graduation. As of 2008, at least 50% of American companies provide educational perks, though only 15% apply that toward any course workers wish to take. Most people tend to associate this generous benefit with MBAs, but some employers have started adding bachelor’s degrees as well. Employees in San Francisco, Oakland, and Sacramento whose companies offer up tuition waivers can snag online diplomas for free thanks to UniversityNow’s College Works initiative (it only offers a business major so far). Even individuals serving the city of Oakland qualify in a move that certainly pleases local government officials desiring a more educated workforce. Participants cite the online format as ideal when it comes to balancing their lives and their jobs, which so often compromise graduation in more traditional settings.

But it isn’t just college graduates and lucky employees receiving perks for making it through school. Programs such as YesPhilly, based out of the eponymous Pennsylvania city, use art and awards to encourage GED completion. It also incorporates life skill and art training alongside rewards like free laptops in order to prepare participants for higher education. Within the span of 18 months, 30 students finished their high school equivalency exams and 18 went straight on into college. Such preparation directly feeds into the national First in the World initiative that wants an additional 8 million Americans to complete a college degree by 2020 and offers individual states $20 million and $50 million grants if they establish successful strategies meant to bolster the graduation rate. The Department of Education suggests tuition freezes or stabilization and a more streamlined credit transfer system to make college accessible to a wider demographic.

10 Most Famous Speeches Ever Given on College Campuses

It must be invigorating for speakers to address college students. Looking out on those fresh young faces, full of optimism and not yet grayed by the cares and hypocrisies of the world, would be enough to stir anyone to deliver words of importance, words about ideas and movements that are going to change the world. After all, the ones who are going to carry out those changes (or fight to ensure the opposite happens, as the case may be) are right there listening. From presidents to paupers, these 10 speakers gave the most historic speeches ever on a college campus.

  1. John F. Kennedy at Rice University, Sept. 12, 1962

    JFK’s presidency was filled with unforgettable statements that now dot the American lexicon. And while his address at American University’s 1963 commencement was a seminal moment in American foreign policy at the time, it is his remarks on a hot September day at Rice Stadium that are still recalled 50 years later. It was here that the president famously said Americans "choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard…" Kennedy was a huge believer in the space program at a time the country was uncertain on how much money should be devoted to Apollo. With his moving vow that Americans would not see the moon "governed by a hostile flag of conquest, but by a banner of freedom and peace," JFK gave all Americans a reason to believe, as well.

  2. Steve Jobs at Stanford Commencement, June 12, 2005

    Even PC fanboys can’t deny the influence of the business and cultural juggernaut that was Steve Jobs. His commencement talk at Stanford in 2005 became an instant classic known as the "Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish" speech. In it, the Apple legend discussed his own college experience that ended with his dropping out; love and loss; and death. At his passing in 2011, many harked back to the poignant words he had spoken while dealing with the pancreatic cancer that would claim his life: "Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart."

  3. Mario Savio at UC Berkeley, Dec. 2, 1964

    Berkeley students like Mario Savio spent the summer of ’64 fighting for civil rights in Mississippi. On their return to the "comfort and security of Berkeley," Savio said they couldn’t forget the people they had tried to help. But back on campus they were faced with the prospect of a ban on political activism. As things came to a head between students and the administration in December, Savio came to the microphone on the steps of Sproul Hall and delivered the speech that would make him the father of the free speech movement: "There’s a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious — makes you so sick at heart — that you can’t take part … And you’ve got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels, upon the levers, upon all the apparatus, and you’ve got to make it stop."

  4. Ronald Reagan at Moscow State University, May 31, 1988

    This is probably the only time Ronald Reagan and Mario Salvo have been mentioned in the same breath. As president, Mr. Reagan had made a career of badmouthing the Soviet Union, dubbing it the "evil empire" and stoking the (icy) flames of the Cold War. Which is why his invitation to talk to students and faculty at Moscow State University — and the way Reagan made use of the opportunity — still stands as an unforgettable part of his legacy and both countries’ histories. He spoke directly to the young men and women in the audience, praising American values and describing how one could "go to any American town" and see freedom in action. It was an appeal to the idealism of youth that at least one president has since evoked.

  5. George Wallace at University of Alabama, Aug. 11, 1963

    This speech is remembered more for its location than the words of its speaker. In the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka declaring segregated schools unconstitutional, Alabama governor George Wallace of "segregation now, segregation forever" fame stuck to his racist guns by marching up the steps of Foster Auditorium and staging his "Stand in the Schoolhouse Door." In a melodramatic attempt to prevent black students from entering, Wallace declared his "refusal to submit to the central government’s illegal use of power." But submit was exactly what he did, to the national guard, in a move that signaled to the entire country that desegregation’s time had totally arrived.

  6. Lyndon Johnson at University of Michigan Commencement, May 22, 1964

    President Kennedy was originally invited to be the keynote speaker at Michigan’s Class of ’64 graduation, but after his assassination, another invitation was extended to his successor. LBJ accepted, and after a White House pool skinny-dipping brainstorming session, he decided he would use the occasion to unveil his new, sweeping social program he collectively called "the Great Society." He peppered the phrase into his monologue, saying the Great Society "rests on abundance and liberty for all" and "demands an end to poverty and racial injustice." Campaigns that still survive, like Medicare and Medicaid, and game-changing laws like the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, all had their groundwork laid that day, in that speech.

  7. Stokely Carmichael at UC Berkeley, Oct. 29, 1966

    Carmichael arguably does not enjoy the level of recognition awarded to some of his peers in the civil rights movement, but in much of the ’60s he was an important part of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and later of the Black Panthers. Although he had been using the phrase for several months, this speech at Berkeley is the one that is immortalized under the title "Black Power." Probably it is remembered that way because the image of Carmichael lecturing a crowd of privileged, white college kids is so stark and indelible. He told them, "We are now engaged in a psychological struggle in this country, and that is whether or not black people will have the right to use the words they want to use without white people giving their sanction to it … but we are not going to wait for white people to sanction Black Power …"

  8. George C. Marshall at Harvard University, June 5, 1947

    Who remembers their U.S. history and can tell us what the Marshall Plan was? Or containment? Anyone? Bueller? OK, well, George Marshall’s famous plan was to come to the aid of war-torn European countries after WWII to help them rebuild. (The fact that this would help keep them from going Commie didn’t hurt, either.) To a crowd of 15,000 graduating seniors and their families in Harvard Yard, Marshall said, "The United States should do whatever it is able to do to assist in the return of normal economic health in the world, without which there can be no political stability and no assured peace. Our policy is not directed against any country, but against hunger, poverty, desperation and chaos." Such became official policy, and six years later Marshall was honored with the Nobel Peace Prize for his role as its architect.

  9. Mahatma Gandhi at Banaras Hindu University, Feb. 4, 1916

    In early 1916, Gandhi was back in his native India after two decades of helping Indians in South Africa overcome discrimination. Back in his motherland, he quickly became a prominent leader, hence his invitation to speak at the opening of the Banaras Hindu University. The opulently-adorned audience was in for a surprise once the slight, unassuming man in the simple cloak and turban took the podium. "I compare with the richly bedecked noble men the millions of the poor," he said, referring to his listeners like the Maharaja of Darbhanga and others. "And I feel like saying to these noble men, ‘There is no salvation for India unless you strip yourselves of this jewelry and hold it in trust for your countrymen in India.’" The commotion his words stirred up prevented him from finishing the speech, but he had set the tone for what would become the quintessential grassroots civil rights campaign.

  10. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad at Columbia University, Sept. 24, 2007

    This one might be more appropriately filed under "infamous," but few talks given on college campuses boast a speaker who has been the focus of so much international attention and whose words echo around the globe. As hundreds of people protested on campus and at other spots in Manhattan, the president of Iran shared his thoughts on some of the most hot-button topics of the last half century or so: the Holocaust, homosexuality (specifically that it doesn’t exist in Iran), Israel, Iran’s nuclear proliferation, 9/11, and the U.S.’ activities in the Middle East. It was a classic illustration that even a man with ideas as anathema to Americans as Ahmadinejad can find the freedom to speak his mind within the halls of academia.